Legal Terminology: LPI Word of the Month

In Pari Delicto

If you enjoy words the way I do, you probably like the way some words or phrases just roll off your tongue.  The words sound interesting before you even delve into their meaning!  In pari delicto is a Latin phrase meaning “in equal fault.”  It comes from the Latin phrase in pari delicto potior est conditio defendentis” which means “in case of equal or mutual fault . . . the position of the defending party is the better one.”  This is the doctrine that bars a plaintiff’s recovery of damages where the plaintiff participated in the activity and it serves as an equitable defense.  Courts are reluctant to award damages to plaintiffs who are said to have “unclean hands.”  The concepts of contributory negligence and comparative negligence are similar to in pari delicto.

The doctrine of in pari delicto refers to two persons or entities equally at fault, and originally referred to illegal acts and illegal contracts.  It has since been expanded to include other types of wrongdoing, including civil wrongs.  The plaintiff in an action must be an active and voluntary participant in the wrongful conduct, and the wrongdoing must be at least substantially equal to that of the defendant.

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